We all have work relationships that aren’t ideal. Sometimes we even try really hard to bridge those gaps. Often though, we work side-by-side with less than optimal communication for too long.
How would you rate the dynamics on your team?
Do you and your business partners see eye-to-eye or do they look the other way when they see you coming? Are the members of your team engaged, and working in lockstep, or is it a struggle to get some team members to take initiative and work together?
Good relationships are built on a foundation of getting to know someone. Simply working together doesn’t lead to an understanding or appreciation of the uniqueness of the people on your team. Without understanding, it is a lot harder to get a message across in the way you want it to be heard, or to motivate. Treating everyone the same way doesn’t work.
How well you know the people you work with, and how you adapt to their differences directly relates to your ability to engage them. In the 2013 Gallup study “State of the American Workforce, Employee Engagement Insights for US Business Leaders” the most shocking finding was that only “30% of the US workforce is engaged; and the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged is 2-to-1, meaning the vast majority of U.S workers (70%) are not reaching their full potential.”
Lack of engagement costs huge losses every year. Organizational productivity, attendance, and profitability are all negatively impacted with low levels of engagement. If you are struggling with less than optimal team dynamics, you are not alone.
While there are lots of ways to engage employees, there is something so basic that it often gets overlooked. Getting to know the people you work with can make all of the difference. I mean really getting to know them. What they have in common with you, what is different? If you learn what motivates, what drives, and what gets someone up in the morning, you gain a huge key to the engagement puzzle.
Think about this. If someone approaches you in a style that goes against the way you prefer to be communicated with, how quickly do you shut him or her off? If you aren’t offered opportunities to do things that really excite you, how long will you continue to go above and beyond?
One of the biggest challenges in getting to know people, even the ones you think you know pretty well, is realizing that what drives people is often not visible. Even if you ask “what motivates you and how do you want to be communicated with?” they don’t know how to answer that question. Even if they know, it can be challenging to figure out how to convey that information in a way that doesn’t offend or feel risky.
So while the bad news is that there is no one best way to engage people, and even if you were to ask for their help, they may not be able to tell you, there is good news too. The good news is that there are tools available to help you hone in on the unique traits of the people on your team. In other words- a short cut. There are validated assessments that have been designed to quickly identify personal communication styles and motivators.
Bringing in someone for a few hours to facilitate an assessment debrief is not only a fun team activity (everyone loves to gain new insight into themselves), but with a trained facilitator the sharing of information can happen in a highly productive, non-threatening, way. In two or three hours an entire team, even if they have been working together for years, will gain a better understanding of each other, an appreciation of what the differences bring to the team, and specific strategies to better communicate and inspire the people who have been the most challenging.
Annual team retreats or an offsite are a great way to help learn about the people you work with but so can booking a conference room for a few hours.
Of course no tool will enable you to shortcut the process of getting to know people if you are not genuine in your interest to learn about them. With a real desire to understand, you can improve team dynamics, effectiveness, and engagement.
Why waste your next obligatory team meeting on the same old, same old. If you want to get different results try something new!
Written by Helene Mazur
Helene is the founder of Princeton Performance Dynamics, an executive coaching and strategic planning facilitation company for business and non-profit leaders and their teams. Helene’s passion is helping her clients to focus their goals, see new perspectives on their current situation, put in place realistic, motivating plans, and execute to achieve new levels of success.
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